Slaves, Freedmen and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius (African Studies)
This social and economic history of the island of Mauritius, from French colonization in 1721 to the beginnings of modern political life in the mid-1930s, emphasizes the importance of domestic capital formation, particularly in the sugar industry. Describing changing relationships among different elements in the society, slave, free and maroon, and East Indian indentured populations, it shows how these were conditioned by demographic changes, world markets, and local institutions. It brings the Mauritian case to the attention of scholars engaged in the comparative study of slavery and plantation systems.
approximately 5 percent of the island's slave population could be expected to maroon each year. By the early 1820s, the annual incidence of maroonage frequently ranged from 11 to 13 percent or more of the colony's servile population. Secondly, most of these fugitives were adult males, a source of additional concern to a white population worried not only about its small numbers vis-aÁ-vis the local slave population, but also by its stereotypical images of the nonwhite males in its midst. As Baron
labor control and the sometimes gruesome details of workers' daily lives also characterizes much of the scholarship on postemancipation plantation societies in Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and the South Paci®c.11 At the heart of many of these studies is the belief, enunciated originally by nineteenth-century abolitionists and since elaborated upon, that indentured laborers were the victims of a ``new system of slavery'' that arose in the wake of slave emancipation.12 This approach has
date to the 1770s. Notarial acts from this era indicate that the pattern of these private purchases was much the same as it had been for their acquisition of public lands; transactions involving small plots in the colony's urban areas, and especially in Port Louis, outnumbered those involving larger rural tracts by a substantial margin. This activity continued on a rather modest scale until the 1790s when the number of private transactions involving gens de couleur began to increase dramatically.
contemporary realities. Emile Ravel, for one, described most of RivieÁre du Rempart's freedmen as being impoverished, if not destitute.27 His comments would be echoed by others, such as Dr. Frederic Mouat who noted circa 1852 that most of the freedmen who had squatted on small patches of land after emancipation lived ``in a state bordering on misery and starvation.''28 The annual reports of the Government Savings Bank likewise suggest that many Creoles possessed limited ®scal resources. The Bank,
those which accrued to some Old Immigrants and allowed them and their children to escape the con®nes of wage labor and to become potentially independent landowners in their own right. However, this independence was often more apparent than real because the great majority of small planters depended more upon the wages they received from temporary employment on the large sugar estates for their livelihood than they did upon the income derived from the sale of their cane.85 This state of affairs may